William McKinley and the Rhetorical Presidency

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Abstract

William McKinley's important role in the development of the rhetorical presidency has been underappreciated. Based on his speeches during a fall 1898 tour and contemporaneous newspaper reports, this article argues that McKinley discussed controversial policy issues, attempted to sway public opinion, and engaged in partisan campaigning. These findings offer new evidence that contradicts Jeffrey K. Tulis's claim that chief executives avoided such activity until Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—embracing Progressive ideology—transformed the presidency into a more visible and popular institution rooted in public speaking. McKinley's rhetorical behavior is not fatal to Tulis's thesis, but it does suggest that McKinley belongs in the “middle way” category.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-134
Number of pages16
JournalPresidential Studies Quarterly
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

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